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Henry James and the ‘Swelling Act of the Imperial Theme’

Henry James and the ‘Swelling Act of the Imperial Theme’

Chapter:
(p.174) Henry James and the ‘Swelling Act of the Imperial Theme’
Source:
American Travel and Empire
Author(s):
Peter Rawlings
Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781846311802.003.0009

This chapter situates Henry James's travel writing within the context of an imperialism which reminds us that his writing was forever ‘radically opposing the power of art to the discourses of power’; and in ways that alert his readers to the perils of specious binaries with chiasmatic inflections. The first part examines James's conflicted attitudes towards the British Empire within the context of the Second Afghan War (1878–80), the disastrous British invasion of Zululand in 1879, and the scramble for Africa. It focuses on ‘The British Soldier’ (1878), ‘The Afghan Difficulty’ (1878), ‘The Early Meeting of Parliament’ (1878), and ‘The Reassembling of Parliament’ (1879). The discussion then turns to the imperial theme in James's English and Italian travel writing before, finally, examining engagements with empire and imperialism in The American Scene.

Keywords:   travel writing, imperialism, British Empire

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